06/01/2017

Intersectionality

By Yamonte Cooper

Committee on Diversity Initiatives and Cultural Inclusion’s Diversity Statement

NCDA’s Committee on Diversity Initiatives and Cultural Inclusion created a diversity statement that was approved by the Board in March 2017. The purpose of the statement is to affirm NCDA’s position on diversity and inclusion. Further, it is a proud display of our values and aspirations as an organization while holding us accountable to exemplifying these values.

The statement, which will be printed on NCDA web and print media, is as follows:

The National Career Development Association (NCDA) acknowledges the worth, dignity, potential, and uniqueness of everyone by honoring diversity and promoting social justice. NCDA views diversity from an intersectional perspective, acknowledging the ways in which identities operate within systems of power, privilege, and oppression. NCDA strives to be a diverse organization in its membership and leadership.

Intersectionality

The statement includes the word “intersectional” which is a common term used in the discourse of oppression, privilege, and power. Intersectionality has moved from academia into more mainstream conversations and circles over the past decade. Although, intersectionality is a commonly understood term among some people, it is still not understood by many. Intersectionality provides a framework that includes a constellation of identities in relation to privilege and oppression. Identity is not static but contingent and contextual and the simultaneous effects of multiple identities are noted in intersectionality.

In 1989, intersectionality theory was introduced by Kimberlé Crenshaw of the UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School in the essay “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine.” In 1991, Crenshaw further expanded the framework in “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color.” Crenshaw introduced the term to address the marginalization of African-American women in antidiscrimination law and in feminist and antiracist theory and politics. Intersectionality theory includes an operational approach and epistemological position in combating multiple forms of oppression within and through various movements of social change (Cho, 2013; Carbado, et al, 2013).

Although intersectionality originated in legal doctrine, it has since been widely adopted outside of legal scholarship in the social sciences, humanities, and nationally and internationally as an essential analytical tool to study and examine the ways in which structures of power interact to produce distinct conditions of social inequality that affect groups and individuals differently. These fields of power interact to produce hierarchy for any limitless combination of identities and is not confined to race and gender. Further, intersectionality provides a systemic and structural analysis of the complexities and relationships of both power and identity while recognizing the variability and contingency of specific manifestations of oppression.

Intersecting Axes of Privilege, Domination, and Oppression

Identities that exists on the axes of privilege includes: genderism (male/masculine and female/feminine), sexism or androcentrism (male), racism (White), eurocentrism (European heritage), heterosexism (heterosexual), ableism (able-bodied), educationalism (credentialed), ageism (young), politics of appearance (attractive), classicism (upper and upper-middle class), language bias (Anglophones), colorism (light, pale), anti-Semitism (gentile non-Jew), and pro-natalism (fertile).

Identities that exists on the axes of oppression includes: infertile, Jews, dark-complected, English as a second language, working class poor, physically unattractive , old in age, illiterate, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ, non-European origin, people of color, women, and the gender “deviant.”

 

Intersecting Axes

A privileged position and identity inherently benefits from oppression. Further, oppression is experienced differently depending on a person’s identities. People can simultaneously hold a privileged position and oppressed identity depending on where their identities fall on the axes of privilege.

The axes provide a depiction of intersectionality that can be useful in locating your privileged and or oppressed identities. As a result, you can begin to understand how you experience oppression and or privilege with overlapping social identities. Intersectionality provides the lens through which we learn to understand the many forms of oppression and how they overlap. These identities categories are not exhaustive and intersectionality is a dynamic theory that continues to expand.

Coalition Building

Intersectionality has the potential for coalition building because identifying categorical differences can enhance the potential to build coalitions between movements by acknowledging differences while promoting commonalities. This can lead to mutual acknowledgement of how structures of oppression are related and linked. Therefore, perspectives of both privilege and victimhood can be illuminated between various identity groups thus creating a connection around shared experiences of discrimination, marginalization, and privilege.

Meaning for Members

The mission statement of NCDA states the following: “The National Career Development Association (NCDA) provides professional development, publications, standards, and advocacy to practitioners and educators who inspire and empower individuals to achieve their career and life goals.” The diversity statement adopted by NCDA is in alignment with advocacy and empowerment which is also mentioned in the mission statement. In addition, the diversity statement demonstrates a commitment by the organization to diversity and inclusion.


Currently, many people feel disempowered in the pursuit of self-actualization which includes their career development. It is important to have an organization like NCDA that takes a stand for those who do not have agency due to oppressive structures. It can be reassuring to know as career development practitioners that we are part of a progressive organization that puts human beings first! These human beings not only include us but our students and clients.

We often work with students and clients to assist them in identifying their values and clarifying how their values connect to the “bigger picture” of their career development while being at the core of their identity. NCDA’s adoption of the diversity statement indicates core values of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice which informs our work with the marginalized and disenfranchised. NCDA’s evolution and expansion will not only positively impact the field of career development but the people that it serves and we as practitioners are in a unique position to be a voice for the voiceless.

References

Carbado, D.W., Crenshaw, K.W., Mays, M.M., & Tomlinson, B. (2013). Intersectionality: Mapping the movements of a theory. Du Bois Review, 10(2), 303-312.

Cho, S. (2013). Post-intersectionality: The curious reception of intersectionality in legal
scholarship. Du Bois Review, 10(2), 385-404.

Morgan, K. P. (1996). Describing the emperor’s new clothes: Three myths of educational in(equality). In Diller, A, Houston, B., Morgan, K.P., & Ayim, M. Editor (Ed.), The gender question in education, theory, pedagogy, & politics (pp. 105-122). Boulder, CO: Westview.



Yamonte CooperDr. Yamonte Cooper is an Associate Professor of Counseling and the Faculty Coordinator of the El Camino College Career Center. Dr. Cooper has 18 years of experience working in higher education and holds the credentials of a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) and a National Certified Counselor (NCC). Further, he is the president of of the California Career Development Association (CCDA) and has served NCDA for the past two years on the Committee on Diversity Initiatives and Cultural Inclusion as the chair. He can be reached at ycooper@elcamino.edu

 

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